Applicant Tracking System - Holy Grail of Candidates

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Applicant Tracking System - Holy Grail of Candidates

As a Candidate have you ever wondered why hiring managers/ recruiters do not see 70% of the resumes they receive? This is primarily because of ATS application which reviews, ranks, scores CVs based on main keywords, action words, critical job requirements and few other factors. Only the top 20-30% Profile with high matching % go ahead in the hiring process. Remaining are rejected. What does this mean to candidates? It re-affirms the important point that, in order to land a job interview, candidates need to take that extra mile and optimize their CVs to make it ATS-friendly in order to be in top 20-30%. Through this article, Sanjay Desai, Co-founder & Regional Director, Humana International (S) Pte Ltd., traces the evolutionary journey of ATS and offers a great headway for candidates and employers to find the RIGHT MATCH…

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System. In simple terms, it is an AI application that is being used by Hiring / HR Managers/ Head-hunters and Recruiters globally to scan / update the large amounts of profiles (CVs) into their CRM Software. It is an OCR application (Optical Character Reader or Recognition) whereby it takes the text from a document and converts it into a format, which is optimised and readable for data processing /storage and retrieval in a standardised manner.

Sanjay Desai

ATS system has parameters that need to be fed-in as they are mentioned in the job description, for example (action words, KPI, deliverables, qualifications, requirements, must haves, etc.). ATS system imitates a human mind and compares a CV with the parameters fed in. Based on number of parameters matching, it will highlight a % number as “matched” with the job description (example – 70% match with JD).

How does an ATS system work?

When an organisation or a head-hunter posts a job on their website / in an open portal, candidates start to apply and send their profiles via soft copy / hard copy depending on the mode requested. Their CVs are uploaded into the ATS system electronically or via manual mode. ATS uses an algorithm called “parsing” to extract & convert the critical information from CV & stores it in their system data base as information for easy retrieval.

ATS also helps the hiring manager / head-hunter to easily search / sort the database as required using correct ‘search words’. The software then identifies resumes containing those keywords and ranks them based on their relevance. This means that candidates whose resumes contain the most relevant information as mentioned in the job description are more likely to be shortlisted for further processing in the hiring process.

Does ATS guarantee selecting the “best suitable” candidate?

Yes / No both. But remember that this is NOT the objective of a HR / hiring manager to use the ATS for. This process is not an end to the means of selecting the best candidate. The hiring process is beyond ATS and there are other manual processes, which ensure that an organisation will select the best candidates. ATS application helps the hiring managers to shortlist a much wider pool of candidates from a huge database of profiles in a short span, reducing repetitive task / time & cost.

Hiring managers will continue to tighten the parameters and compare the set of profiles repeatedly till they get the most relevant profiles with high % match. Thereafter the manual process will take over to complete the hiring process. 

Advantages of using ATS system

There are many quantitative and qualitative advantages in using ATS system if it is handled and optimised correctly. Let us look at a few major advantages only:

  • Reduction in time & duplication of effort: ATS will save time and duplication effort to a larger extent almost all the time. Besides the quality matching, it also helps in automating some of the downstream tasks like filtering / ranking.
  • Standardised Quality: The way ATS works, it automatically assigns a standard quality in its scanning process. So, there are no deviations while comparing a large pool of candidates in a consistent manner. Additionally, ATS helps in eliminating bias in the candidate review process by focusing on objective criteria, which are mission critical.
  • Efficiency & Accuracy: ATS helps organizations to be more efficientin handling large pool of candidates by accurately analysing / comparing the parameters with the profiles and highlighting the top candidates within a very short span like less than couple of hours. The hiring manager can spend more time on qualitative tasks and engaging candidates more effectively, making better informed decisions.
  • Greater Candidate Journey & Experience: Usually, head-hunters and organisations have their own HRIS (Human resource information system), which has ATS built-in as a utility. The organisation can leverage this set-up to communicate with the candidates on a real-time basis for critical updates. This helps to enhance candidates’ experience in real time.
  • Cost Effective Process: Using an ATS system is certainly cost-effective for employers and recruitment agencies. The software eliminates the need for manual data entry and reduces the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, allowing the person to focus on higher-value tasks.
  • Automates Intra-company and Intercompany Communication: An ATS allows improved communication among the recruiting team members and others who are involved in the hiring process. It helps the team members to send messages, schedule emails in bulk, and assign tasks in an organized manner using the e-approval capabilities of an ATS system. Most ATS nowadays integrate seamlessly with google/ outlook calendars and various other email systems. You end up with less paperwork and a more organized automated platform process.

How to ‘beat’ ATS and get your CV past ATS?

It is indeed challenging to ‘beat’ an ATS completely. However, there are subtle ways and means that professionals can practice increasing their chances of getting past the initial screening with high % match. Here are some Do’s and some Don’ts:

  • Tailor your resume: As a candidate, you must have a ‘generic’ CV ready. For every new position that you want to apply, you need to tailor the generic CV by incorporating relevant keywords, action words and phrases from the job description. Only then, your tailored CV will be a high % match with the job description amongst other profiles.
  • Use a simple word template: Use single font (Arial or Calibri) and with maximum two scales (size 11 for entire CV and size 12 for highlights). Save the file in Word or PDF model only. ATS barely understands beyond Word and PDF documents.
  • Identify about 30-35 relevant action words and short phrases from the job description and include them at least once in your CV under appropriate bullets.
  • Keep the content sharp and simple: Remember it is not the design or the colourful layout, but it is the content, clarity & text, which makes your CV appropriate, so FOCUS on these.
  • Align your CV and LinkedIn Profile: Make sure to keep your CV as short / conscious as possible and use LinkedIn as an extension of your career history to create a story. Most HR / Hiring Managers will check your LinkedIn profile to get a sneak preview of your achievements or career progression.
  • Special instructions in Job Description: Pay full attention to the instructions provided by the company and comply 100% so that you are NOT automatically filtered out due to non-compliance with some instructions.

What is the future of ATS?

We need to acknowledge that technology is constantly evolving, affordable, and available consistently. Similarly, ATS has also evolved long way, adding new improvements and innovative features, making it the core of the Hiring Process. It has embraced multiple capabilities like social networking via WhatsApp & video conferencing. While we cannot lay down a finger on a number, ATS will continue to evolve and will be in practice easily for next decade, scaling innovation & ideas for HR / Hiring managers globally.

In conclusion, an ATS offers a range of benefits and advantages to employers and recruitment agencies. The software does save time, money, and duplication. It helps to increase accuracy, improve the candidate’s experience, enhance communication, and be cost-effective.

Your resume is your business card. After it passes thru ATS, it will be reviewed thoroughly by a hiring / HR manager. It is absolutely necessary that your CV is ‘tailored’ for each position you apply for. Keep it crisp – just the right size that it covers all key tasks mentioned in JD. It will create an interest for the hiring/ HR manager to shortlist your profile.

Remember that while these strategies can enhance your shortlisting chances, more important for you, is to focus on developing your interview skills, your ability to build a strong professional network and your reputation in the market. They all go hand in hand for a successful career transition. All the BEST!!!

Disclaimer – This article is about ATS only. It should not be mis-construed as CV / Resume writing article. It is NOT.

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